The role of kitchari in the diet is far more complex than simply enjoying a delicious bowl for a weeknight meal. It’s used across the spectrum of Ayurvedic and yogic practices for its gentle ability to aid in the detoxification of impurities and toxins that can build up over time in our bodies. A kitchari cleanse is often “on the menu” twice a year – once to welcome in the newness of the spring and the heat of the summer, and again to prepare the body for the cool winds of fall and the freezing temperatures of winter.
The use of kitchari for medicinal purposes dates back thousands of years. The easy-to-digest combination of basmati rice and moong daal, prepared with the appropriate spices, vegetables and ghee is basic to understanding and living an Ayurvedic lifestyle. This combination of ingredients, tailored to constitutional individuality brings harmony and balance to the body, the mind and the emotions. Ayurveda teaches us that kitchari is “tridoshic”. This means it supports and balances all three doshas (body constitutions) as described by Ayurveda – VATA which governs movement, PITTA which governs digestion and metabolism, and KAPHA which governs the physical structure of the body.
Kitchari cleanses are typically done from three days up to a week. Many people enjoy a weekly reset with a 24-hour kitchari cleanse. Some of many benefits include:
- Provides clarity and lightness to the mind and body
- Relieves excess weight and bloat
- Promotes healthy bowel function and regulation
- Removes heaviness from congestion of mind and body
- Brings energy and wellbeing to the mind and body
- Supports and strengthens the digestive fire known as “agni”
- Improves metabolism, digestion and overall good health
- Supports good, restful sleep
A kitchari cleanse can be a mono-diet – eating only kitchari for the duration of the cleanse or it can include a regimen of medicinal herbs and/or herbal ghee preparations. In some cases, kitchari may be consumed for lunch and dinner while breakfast is either skipped as a continuation of the overnight fast or hot tea/chai and/or cooked oatmeal with fruit and ghee may be taken.
Often, prior to the cleanse, a preparation period of a week or more is advised. This includes the gradual removal of junk foods, refined foods, sugar, white flour, processed foods, candies, pastries, pizzas, meats and sausages, etc. Often, certain relaxing rituals are advised to accompany the cleanse. Examples include:
Bathing with herbs, special flowers, baking soda, ginger, etc.
Abhyanga oil massage with oils infused with herbs, flowers and/or spices
Herbal preparations like Triphala, bitter or herbal ghee in tea or hot milk
Daily mediation, contemplation and japa – repetition of a mantra or divine name to calm, stabilize and focus the mind
After the cleanse, it is advised to gently and gradually incorporate additional foods back into your diet while continuing to practice sound, healthy habits that include a practice of yoga and meditation, an overall healthy diet and lifestyle, and good sleeping habits.
According to Ayurveda, the restoration of balance is the key to good health. One particularly beneficial treatment used to effectively restore balance is an ancient practice known as Panchakarma. Pancha means “five” and karma, in this case, refers to “procedures”. In other words, panchakarma consists of five procedures or main treatments, each designed to cleanse and purify different areas of the body. The five karmas are:
- Vamanam – induces vomiting to help clear the upper gastrointestinal tract
- Virechanam – clears the lower gastrointestinal tract from the duodenum through the rectum
- Anuvasana – uses a medicated oil-based enema to lubricate the rectal area to help remove fat-soluble waste through the anus
- Nasyam – clears the sinuses and respiratory tract
- Astapana Vasti – enema which cleanses from the transverse colon to the anus
Kitchari is the ideal food to enjoy when going through the cleansing process of panchakarma. By its very nature, it will work to automatically assist panchakarma in doing its most valuable work! Because kitchari is so easy to digest, more energy can go towards healing and renewal. A temporary diet of kitchari works wonders to restore vitality and strength, provide nourishment to the cells, and at the same time, nurture the mind and soul.
By all means, kitchari is a must-have food when undergoing panchakarma – the two work together synergistically and harmoniously to remove toxins and restore purity, clarity and an overall sense of wellbeing and vitality.